With my big, deadline-driven Web project launched and humming (for the time being), it’s time to get out of town for my anniversary.

That’s what writers do; we finish the book/Web site/project, then go somewhere warm to shake off the Post-Project Traumatic Stress Syndrome – preferably with an appropriately literary alcohol (the Copywriting Maven says “mojitos” are the cure, and this time, I may test her theory).

Still, I’m going to leave my readers with some legal fun (really). Read on: you’ll find this interesting.

Who Owns Your Work Now?

You can run from big projects, but you can’t run from the law, which is why I sat up a little when Valleywag listed the five most laughable Terms of Service Agreements in high tech.

For example, download Google’s new Chrome browswer, and you agree that:

…any “content” you “submit, post or display” using the service — whether you own its copyright or not — gives Google a “perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute” it? Google’s ambitions for Chrome are even larger than we thought; by the letter of this license, Google will own all information that flows through its browser. But Chrome’s terms of service are just the latest in a long line of ludicrous legalese.

Facebook’s says it owns the rights to the photographs you upload to the service.

Sure, it’s ludicrous, but then, it’s also in keeping with the anti-intellectual property ethos of Web 2.0, where content creators give up their right to content as fast as they create it, and only those providing technology are allowed to cash in.

In this case, Google’s obviously trying head off the legal challenges that suggest their ad netowrk illegally profits from the work of others.

As a copywriter, it’s easy to think none of this will affect you, but in some not-so-distant future, some of these agreements could come back to bite writers and other creatives on our flat butts.

Imagine a professional photographer who innocently uploads a couple images to his Facebook page, then finds them starting back at him in a Facebook ad.

Legal? Maybe.

UPDATE: Now Google says they don’t want the rights to your work, and are removing that passage from the Chrome license.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Web Worker Daily also posted a short interview with a legal expert about Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) – a legal form copywriters are often asked to sign.

I’ve signed quite a few over the years (mostly high-tech clients), and most protected my rights as much as the client’s.

Still, I was once handed a “standard” NDA across a desk, and though I came within a whisker of not reading it, I’m glad I did.

On page six, I discovered a non-compete clause.

I muttered a “Huh?” (Not my best moment, verbally speaking.)

A little reading, and I realized this little gem would have prevented my working for anyone else in the client’s markets (all of them) for several years.

“Houston,” I said, “we have a problem.” (This was much better than “Huh.”)

While I avoid direct conflicts of interest, I’m also clear that I’m being paid for my copy and expertise – not the exclusive rights to “own” me in a particular field.

It became a sticking point – until I explained to my contact exactly what I was signing away.

We excised the offending passage from the NDA (both initialed the change), and went on with the project.

The moral? Don’t sign an NDA without reading it – even a “standard” form.

Keep drinking mojitos writing, Tom Chandler.

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